Last week BYU had its annual Accessibility Awareness Week, and maybe you noticed some usually capable students around campus temporarily ?impaired.?
One hundred twenty-five students took the D.A.R.E. (the Disabled Achievement Recognition Experience), where they simulated a disability for two hours during their regular days. These disabilities included speech, hearing, and vision impairments, hand limitation and arm injury, limited leg use and loss of leg use.
I took a vision impairment D.A.R.E. and my perfectionist personality was not comfortably conducive with the limitations that come with such a disability. I was surprised at how much harder it was than I imagined. Daily activities took twice as long to complete: using the computer, stapling papers and even walking to class. My concentration was cut in half; it was much harder to focus on the task at hand, needing to apply much more attention to what I was trying to do. From experiencing a disability first hand it is nearly impossible to not go away with sincere empathy and respect for our peers who have a permanent or semi-permanent disability and struggle through daily routines that I know I take for granted. My patience and my love have been extended.
By far the most popular disability to ?take on? was the loss of leg use where students borrowed a wheelchair and were required to attend class, use an elevator, a ramp, and go to the Smith Fieldhouse. It?s amazing how much you don?t realize how limiting getting around can be when you don?t have to manage everyday.
Although Accessibility Week is over, the University Accessibility Center has plenty of opportunities for the general student body to get involved as volunteers to take notes for disabled students, read textbooks to students or on tape, scribing tests for students, or helping with mobility needs. The UAC also offers services to students with many types of disabilities, including, but not necessarily limited to, mobility, learning, emotional, and physical disabilities. The goal of the UAC is to give students the knowledge about accommodations available and opportunities to reach their potential.
The Recreation Management Department and BYU Intramurals are offering another way to experience a disability through wheelchair basketball and rugby intramurals. All students are welcome to sign up, and games begin second block of Fall Semester.
BYU is an accessible campus, and has been noted as such by national disability standards, for their accessibility options for mobility as well as technology adaptations for special needs. With students at BYU entering to learn and going forth to serve, I hope students learn about disabilities here, and serve those around us here on campus and after we leave, even through heightened awareness, compassion, and respect.